Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What a day!

So today I thought I would give my email a quick check and then do some sewing, as I applied for a table at the Dublin Flea Market. If I get it, I'll need to kick it into high gear with the sewing in order to have enough stuff. But just as I got on, I heard from a guy, we'll call him "Josh," who had contacted me recently because, by coincidence he and his wife relocated here to Dublin from Boston at almost the exact same time I came here. Weird coincidence, isn't it?He found my blog through a google search while job hunting. We'd exchanged a few emails and it seems like we've both been going through the same job search frustrations, and living in a new place with few friends frustrations. He caught me on gchat and we were talking about sites around town. I mentioned the mummies at St. Michan's Church, and neither of us had been. So we decided that since it was a beautiful day to get out of the house, we'd meet up and check it out.

We met at a bakery/cafe called Queen of Tarts (their website appears to be down for the moment), where I had a Red Onion and Potato Tart. At 9.95euro, it was more than I wanted to spend on a quick bite to eat (I wasn't terribly hungry, but I wanted more than just a scone), but it came with a large piece of focacia bread, dill potato salad, and a mixed green salad.

We headed in the direction of St. Michan's, and armed with my Dublin City map we figured we would find it no problem. But when we came upon where it appeared to be on the map, the two buildings that it seemed most likely to be didn't seem to be it. So we roamed on. We asked three different people for directions, and each person gave us different directions. Finally, I thought for sure that a church-like building ahead was the one we were looking for, so Josh asked a guy where St. Michan's was. And the guy pointed to that building. Eureka! So we crossed the street and approached the building. But as we got closer, we had our doubts. Just then, a voice from behind us said, "Lookin' for St. Michan's, are you?" We said yeah. He said, "That guy back there sent you over here but he actually doesn't know where St. Michan's is, so he sent me to follow you to show you where it is." The guy sent to follow us had just been on the Guinness tour and he himself admitted that he was half in the bag, but he led us to this main street and then told us to go up and take a right hand turn. "You can't miss it," he kept saying. Well, that's what the other two people said. After he walked on, I said to Josh, "I don't believe that guy." So Josh called his wife at the office, and between my map and google maps she was able to direct us to where we needed to go....

...which was right back to where we started. As it happens, St. Michan's, being so old, is actually not a very ostentatious building, and does not have a big sign on it. So with a metaphorical slap to the forehead, we walked in. After Josh very generously paid our entrance fee (I think it was five euro), we were told to go into the chapel and have a look around and wait for our tour guide. A woman from Germany walked in a few minutes later to join us, as we were poking around. Then, as we were inspecting the artifacts at the rear of the church, a man's voice called out, "Who wants to see the mummies?"

He led us outside, and to the side of the building. While we walked he asked where we were from, and if we'd ever been to St. Michan's before. I said I hadn't, but that my husband had as a child, and he'd actually been able to touch one of the mummies, and that my father in law had been able to shake hands with one of them when he visited as a kid. The tour guide gave me a very exaggerated "very unlikely" look and then made the index finger around the ear "you're crazy" signal. Balancing a lit and mostly smoked cigarette on the stone wall, he opened the bulkhead, went down, turned on the light, and came back up. Picking the cigarette back up, and taking the last few drags, he directed us to head down the stone steps. With much apprehension, we crawled down into the vaults. I forgot my camera, so I'm borrowing photos, found online. Here's where we had to walk down:

The tour guide was funny. He had an animated way of speaking that was manufactured to sound like he was sort of bored. We walked down this long hallway:

off of which, we were able to view this:

One of the mummies, the one at the back, is supposed to be a Crusader (we won't mind the dates, which, according to my research, don't match up with when the vaults were created). His body is 800 years old. And he is 'round about six feet tall (or should I say he was before someone broke his legs to fit him into his casket), which is tall for now, let alone 800 years ago. And you can tell from the size of his hands that he was a tall dude. But as the tour guide noted, he is missing one of his fingers, and his hand is in that position because....aha! they used to let people shake hands with the Crusader!! It was supposed to be good luck. But it wasn't like a proper hand shake -- more like a little touch of the hand. And then...the tour guide beckoned for us to come close, and he said that if we promised to give the Crusader 15% of all of our lottery winnings, he would allow us to touch him. And he moved the grate over to the side and told us to go in and have a go. The three of us were totally flabbergasted and stood there for a few moments stammering. I did the "after you" signal in a feigned gesture of politeness. Josh went in first, paused, bent over the mummy for a few seconds , and then stood up straight, and walked out without touching it. Then I went in. Man it was SO MUCH scarier inside the doorway with the mummies! I, too, bent over. And I almost lost my nerve. But then I thought of my lousy luck and the two job rejection emails I received this morning, and I thought, "Angela, don't blow this. You gotta touch that mofo mummy, even if it's just a stupid superstitious myth!" So I lightly touched the hand of the Crusader on a dark, shiny spot where you could tell it had been touched many, many times before by other poor saps in my same spot. Then I got the hell out of there. The German woman went in last. She bent down with her hand out, and was within a centimeter of touching the mummy, but as if repelled by a magnetic force, she recoiled and ran out of the vault.

There were other parts of the tour, which I will not retell -- y'all have google and can look up St. Michan's yourself. But it was definitely worth the trip out, and even the getting lost and misled for a bit.

Afterwards, since we were in the neighborhood, we headed over to the Dice Bar for a pint, and Josh agreed that it does resemble the Plough and Stars in Cambridge, MA. Tom Waits was playing, which was nice.

On my way home, I made my usual mistake of just randomly heading in a direction before thinking about where the hell I'm going. But I stopped and looked at my map and realized that I wasn't so far off from a very decent way of going home. Then I turned a corner and recognized a pub that I'd been to from my visit in 2007, so I knew I was at least somewhere near a place I'd been. I kept the faith and sure enough! I popped out close to the house, and was excited that I'd found a new way of getting from point a to point b.

Then upon my arrival, I sat down to my computer to check my email and wouldn't you know? I won tickets to see the new production of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors that's happening at The Abbey Theatre! I entered into an online drawing a couple of days ago on the website Culch.ie, and I have to admit I had a lucky feeling when I did. I can't wait to see it!

That's all to report for now. But isn't that enough? Today I touched the bare hand of a mummified Crusader. What will tomorrow bring?

Monday, March 30, 2009

uh....so I've been known to eat myself a Pot Noodle now and again. And for my fellow Americans, no, that is not a drug reference, it's a type of instant noodle that's almost exactly like the Ramen Cup o' Noodle. So today, I scarfed one down (curry flavor, of course), and not surprisingly my stomach immediately reacted unfavorably. If it could speak, I'm pretty sure it would have said, "Bitch, no." That got me wondering about the Pot Noodle, so I looked up their website. And man, this website is weirding me out.


I think perhaps most disturbing promotional game you can play called "Food Fight:"

"So you think you’re hotter than a Bombay Bad Boy? Well, now you can prove it by taking on our very own Pot Noodle super-dwarfs in the Pot Noodle Food Fight. We’ll arm you with a pugil stick to try and knock the super-dwarf off the podium, but your pecs will provide the real power."

Yes, that's right. Super-dwarfs. I really would like to have been in this brainstorming session at the marketing company that came up with this campaign. "Well, we need something interactive to get people really involved with the site, you know, something to get them excited about the Pot Noodle brand. What gets people really, really excited to eat Noodles? Of course! Nothing makes people more ravenous for noodles than fighting dwarfs! Who doesn't love to fight dwarfs? Brilliant!"

Originally I thought this was an online game. But no. This is something live that happens in person. The Pot Noodle promotional team actually goes to events with their Super-Dwarfs to promote their products. Here are some photos from the site, in case you are too (justifiably) horrified to click on it yourself:
The Super-Dwarfs

At the Southend Airshow

At "Street Life"

But maybe even more baffling, if you can imagine, is this "funny" video about a guy who eats too many Pot Noodles and turns into a half man-half sheep. Um...what do noodles have to do with sheep? You tell me.
Saturday Mark was scheduled to work at the Dublin Food Coop for a few hours, so I spent some time trying to finish that damned silk dress that has been hanging over my head. But then after a while I had the brilliant idea that since I had to bike to our evening plans and couldn't wear the long dress I'd had planned, that I should make myself a quick little number, ala Cinderella. So I set to work with a cowl-neck top pattern that I have been wanting to make as a dress. I sped along, but alas, I only got about 3/4 of the way through the dress before I had to jump in the shower in order to leave and meet Mark. We had tickets to see A Certain Ratio at The Button Factory. So I put together a bike-ready ensemble and ran out the door.

The show was enjoyable, though not so well attended. When we first walked in, we were among only a handful of people there. The opening band was not unpleasant -- they weren't horrible, but they didn't blow me away either. Then again, I'm trying to remember the last time a band or musician blew me away...hmmm. We realized, when A Certain Ratio hit the stage, that we'd been sitting next to two of the band members (the female singer and the guitarist). They put on a good show:

Then we headed over to Seomra Spraoi for the Queer Spraoi Ball, but sadly by then it was already midnight, and Seomra Spraoi had turned into a pumpkin and they weren't letting anyone else in, which actually was understandable since the event was to end at one am. So as a consolation prize, I agreed to grab "just one drink" at Fibber Magees. We biked back towards town and popped in.

I don't really mind the place so much, but when you walk in, you do get smacked in the face with the smell of hairspray and farts. That's really the best way to describe it. It's a strange melange of folks who congregate there -- from normy dudes to metalheads to goth chicks to what Mark would describe as "hipsters" -- and there are always really horrendously bad patent leather garments (usually boots you'd imagine a stripper would wear or a corset), bad dreadlocks, 90s-style manic panic hair, and someone asleep. On this night, the place was particularly trashed because there had been a show, so there was broken glass all over the floor. But still, even though it sounds like I'm cutting down the place, I actually don't mind it there. Good people watching, as you can imagine. And if you're not in the mood to talk, you can watch people play pool. Or you can place bets on who is going to fall asleep next.

Yesterday I volunteered for most of the day at Seomra Spraoi in the kitchen for the cafe that was open from 3 to 5. This happens every Sunday, and if you haven't been and you live in Dublin, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. There's a suggested donation, which is always very, very reasonable (I think yesterday it was 4 euro), and you get to stuff your face with the most delicious vegan food. We made a lovely eggplant,zucchini, lentil dish with brown rice, served with a mixed lettuce salad and a cucumber mint salad, multi-grain bread, and then this amazing dessert topped with this toffee sauce. Yum yum yummmm.

Spending the day there, I was able to speak with some new people I'd never met before, as well as those I had, and all in all keep working on establishing ties in my community here. In particular I spoke with a woman who happens to be getting her PhD at Mark's school -- not in the same department, but in a kinda-sorta related one, and I think they would probably have some things to talk about if they met, so I hope to see her again around town.

Even though I was totally beat, I relaxed for a couple of hours at home and then Mark and I headed over to Cabra to spend time at the pub with his parents and uncle. They were all very lively and had the gift of gab last night! But by some grace, I mustered up the energy to be attentive and enjoy every second of the story telling without yawning once. Mark very happily reported his good marks, and they seemed quietly proud of his work. I always enjoy going up to see them because it reminds me of why I am here, because sometimes I do get down in the dumps and even a little homesick. But being with Mark's family makes me feel like I have family here, even if it's by marriage. I'm starting to feel a sense of belonging, anyways, if only the beginning of that emotion. And I suppose that's the first step in shirking the label of stranger.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Yesterday Mark said to me, "You know, sometimes, you aren't all there." And while that *really* is the pot calling the kettle black, I have to admit that yes, I am one of those creative types who can get bogged down with certain details only to let other details...slip. Also, I have a crap memory at times, I will admit it. And I can be flighty. And clumsy. Sue me! (Well, actually, please don't sue me.) And if I'm in a rush or if my blood sugar is low, you can kinda forget it -- I have a 70% chance of doing something wackadoo.

So I had this interview today at 2:30pm with a recruiter who had me in mind for a position. But there was a job listing for a Library Assistant for the college that is literally at the end of our street that I saw yesterday afternoon and the closing date was today at noon. They wouldn't accept applications via email, so my only hope was to hand deliver it. When I woke up, I opened the Application Form that I had downloaded, and it was all kinds of bug. They wanted to know what high school I went to, and other various information that seemed a bit perplexing. But I attached my CV and a nice cover letter, put it in an envelope with the name of the HR manager on it, and walked it over to the college at a few minutes to 12. On the way I prayed to everyone in my life that I feel is looking over me (I don't believe in God, but I pray to the dead. It doesn't make sense but there you have it).

On the way back, I stopped at the bakery for a loaf of bread, and was headed home to prepare for my interview, feeling rather satisfied with myself, until I realized suddenly that I forgot to sign and date the stupid application form. There was no time to go back, so the best I can really hope for is that it won't matter. But with my luck, they'll be like, "Attention to details, eh?? The bimbo forgot to sign the application!" and then throw it in the circular file.

I arrived to my interview on time (thank to a taxi ride - whoops), and the woman interviewing me was extremely nice, and kindly informed me that on my CV I should note that I have a spousal visa and do not need sponsorship. I thought that saying I had a PPS number was enough but apparently anyone can get one of them! So this may explain why in 3 months of applying for jobs I haven't received one call-back for work. MAJOR BUM OUT! But glad to know now, I guess.

So we talk and she asks me what my typing speed is. Well, when I type words from my head, it's *very* fast. According to my last internet typing test, it was like 95 wpm. So that's what I said. She asked if I minded taking a typing test, and I said not at all. She set up the test, told me what I needed to do, and said she was late for a meeting but that when I was finished, I was free to go. But of course when I sat down and started doing the practice test, it's like I choked! I was typing all slow suddenly, and much more deliberately. And you know how it is typing on a foreign keyboard. I realized how hungry I was, and dehydrated. I started stressing out and feeling lightheaded! So I took some deep breaths and got the swing of it, and when it was time to do the actual test, I started to feel a bit better. I thought, I'll just scootch my chair up a bit closer to the keyboard, and then as I scootched, my chair hit something and pew! The computer just shut down. It felt like a horrible nightmare. I looked down at the floor. The tiny leg of my chair managed to bump the tiny button of the computer and had shut it off. There I was in an empty room, the computer was shut down, and I had just seen that only a password would turn it back on again, so I was pretty much screwed.

I headed sheepishly back out to the reception desk and explained what had happened. Then I had to wait for the receptionist to get the woman who interviewed me to come back and re-set up the machine. She was, as always, very kind and said that I wasn't the first person it had happened to. Then she was off again. I sat down once more and did the shittiest typing job ever, and left, feeling like I've simply lost my interviewing mojo.

On my way home I did a little shopping and bought some vegetarian treats for us (soy custard, veggie sausage, fake cheese), some new pillows, and a bath mat. Then I piled myself on the bus and settled in because we hit some serious traffic. I was feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering if I had blown both of my chances for employment of the day, when I looked up and saw a proper rainbow out of the bus window. I took my camera out and snapped a photo:

I know that, with all the rain that happens here, rainbows are a common occurrence. I mean, where do you think the whole leprechaun/gold at the end of the rainbow thing came from? But the narcissist in me felt just then that the rainbow was a special message from all the people I'd prayed to earlier in the day, telling me not to give up and that things will be ok.

I stopped by the grocery store and bought some Vodka and Pomegranate juice, and helped an old lady with her groceries, which always feels good, doesn't it? Then Mark came home with his grade results -- he has received As on all of the papers he wrote last semester, with many positive comments from his professors. I admit to getting a little teary eyed when I thought of it, and of the hard times we've had. Mark's going back to school for something he feels passionately about is truly a blessing in both of our lives. So - everything balances out, if you look for the positive and remain persistent in your pursuit of the things you want in life. Like my dad says, I just gotta keep hustling!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And because I am so swift...

Today I decided to go back to earnestly looking for a job, since American Apparel sent me the official rejection email this morning. I was actually happy about it because I've heard so many horrible, horrible things about that company it's not even funny. And a friend of mine was just let go from one of their stores, so I'm not feeling so hot about them anyways. Also, their stuff is way overpriced. If I worked there I don't know what I'd wear because I have actively boycotted their clothing almost since the beginning.

But it was a job, and I would have taken it.

So miraculously my phone rings just now. My phone never rings. That's why I barely know how to use it. So I press a button, think it's the wrong one, say, "Shit," then press another button, and the call is lost. I then realize that I have answered the phone, said, "Shit," and sent the call to voicemail. And Guess who? A person about a job I've just applied for. She leaves a voicemail (praise god, as the Irish would say). I call back and I'm all, "Sorry I *just* missed your call," and she says, "Yes, I think you had some technical difficulties there." Ahem. Yes. Yes I did. How mortifying.

Anyways I have an interview for tomorrow afternoon. I wish I had a nice interview suit, but I don't. I'll have to pull something together. Wish me luck!
So in my continued efforts to get out, do interesting things, see more of the city, and meet people, I was searching Facebook for Dublin-related groups that would give me event listings and updates of things happening around town. I simply searched "Dublin." And then somewhere around page 23, after I thought I had seen just about every Dublin-related Facebook group three times, I came across a group called "Boycott Dublin." And here's their userpicture:

Just because we live in Israel or Palestine doesn't mean that we are willing to accept racism as a part of life. The way that the staff and management at Dublin Pub in Jerusalem chose to treat our friends because of their race was unacceptable, and we want to make sure that people know that."

So, despite a call to "BOYCOTT DUBLIN," it's about a beef with a bar called Dublin Pub that's in Jerusalem, and has nothing to do with the city of Dublin. But it's a sad story about a conflict and mistreatment, and a bar owner trying to make amends.

A Dubliner came along to the group and had this to say, "First of all, can something be done about the title of this site. It really does suggest that this is about the City of Dublin rather than about a Pub of the same name. I come from Dublin City and when I came across this site it really freaked me out. I decided to join this group as I believe that Saleem and the guys were badly treated. But now I read Esther's entry and it poses a question. Jason, Saleem... have you tried to talk to the manager of this Pub? If he has asked you to be willing to forgive this incident then the balls in your court. I know you have been insulted and discriminated against. And that hurts- I know. But I also believe that nursing your grief is unhealthy. In my own Country thousands of people died because of lack of forgiveness. It takes a big man to take a step like this and Saleem I believe your that big man!! I pray you will find forgiveness in that big heart of yours!"

Poignant, isn't it?
Not a whole lot to report this week! It's been rather quiet, with Mark back in school after his spring break, and I'm home trying to work on my various "stuff." It's been incredibly windy all week long -- downright blustery. But today the sun is out at least.

Last night we had a good laugh while watching Television. An advertisement came on for an Irish plus sized women's clothing store called, swear to god, Oxendales. Like, seriously? Oxendales? What a message that sends out to the larger women of the world: "You're big as Oxen! But it's ok, shop here!"

Speaking of television, I haven't talked about what we have been watching on TV. Sex in the City does play every single night, so if nothing else is on, admit that I will flip over to it as a default. But the US television shows like Heroes and the TLC cleaning shows that I used to really love aren't on the channels we have now, though they do play in Ireland on fancy cable channels. The shows I'm really enjoying are:

Heston's Feasts. Heston Blumenthal is this British chef that has a very pricey restaurant in England that serves all kinds of wackadoo stuff. And for his show he puts together these meals that aim to recreate the culinary experiences of places and times past. Then he serves the food to a dinner party and films their reactions. It's very interesting and entertaining. You can watch an episode HERE.

I saw the English comedian Russell Brand host the MTV music awards and I thought he was utter crap, so I had pretty much ignored him from then on. Also, his hair really bothers me. But he has a TV Show called Ponderland and one night I happened to give it a chance and I found myself laughing hysterically, and then I was sold. I'm not sure if he does his own writing for the show or what, but it's very funny. It's sort of like America's Funniest Home Videos meets Mystery Science Theater 3000 meets SNL News. He plays clips from random old documentaries and makes fun of them, basically. While it sounds like shooting fish in a barrel, I don't know, it's just funny! He's very intellectual, I think, as it turns out.

Some people back home are also watching the show Skins, a teen drama that I got hooked on thinking it was a comedy. The acting is better than most teen ensemble shows, and the writing is not bad either. It's not exactly uplifting, but if you need a little jolt of catharsis, it's a good one to watch.

The other show that was on for a while that was entertaining to watch was called The Convention Crasher. This comedian, Justin Lee Collins, preps and trains for a few weeks before going to different conventions in an attempt to fit in and win the competitions there.

I'm about 3/4 done with this silk dress. I'm going to attempt to finish it up today and then head over for a visit with my mother in-law. I hope I don't fall over getting there in this wind!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lastnight we were going to stay in for the evening, but then we decided to check out the "Bar @ Tolka Stadium" right near us that seemed to be open to the public. At first we assumed it was a private club, but then signs seemed to indicate that anyone could go in. So we thought, what that heck.

When we walked in, there was a tiny bar to the left, and the proprietor was sitting alone at a table, reading the paper. I think he was surprised to see us. We each ordered a (very reasonably priced) pint, and had a very nice chat with the barman. He just took on the place about a week and a half ago, and cleaned it up, opened it, and is hoping to turn it around and get people in there within the next six to eight weeks. It was certainly a lot more comfortable to me than a lot of bars. And the guy was nice to talk to. A really good guy. We will definitely go back there. So - if you're near Tolka Park Stadium and it's open, definitely stop in for a pint!
So today I feel my heart being pulled across the Atlantic more so than usual, because my Uncle Freddy passed away over the night, and his wife, my Aunt Annie, is struggling to recover from recent surgery, but is struggling due to the grief from losing her husband. My cousins are crushed, and I'm sure my father is saddened at the news, as are my siblings and I.

Freddy was one of my only uncles, on either side of my family, truth be told, that didn't scare or intimidate me. When he walked into the room, he always, and I mean always, had a smile on his face, and that smile was contagious. Since my father's side of the family have always been a tad on the serious (or shall I say reserved) side, Freddy was a breath of fresh air when he came to family events with my Aunt Annie. I am smiling right now just thinking of him and thinking how I felt as a small child through my teens and twenties, whenever I saw him, knowing he'd always have that same gregarious grin and open arms. And the best evidence of the kind of man Freddy was can be found in his kids, who are among my favorite cousins (of which I have over a hundred at last check) -- always kind and pleasant to talk to. I know they learned it from their parents. So today I feel sad to be so far away and not a short car ride away as I would have been if I hadn't moved. I have no regrets, but still, my heart is heavy and it would be nice to hug my family.

However, moving on I will report what I have been up to these few couple of days. On Thursday night Mark and I went to an art opening at the Gallery Thisisnotashop. The new installation was of the artist Andréa Stanislav, who, as it turns out, is a friend of my friend Heather! This shouldn't have been surprising since the gallery is run and owned by friends of Heather as well, but I felt all warm and fuzzy having that connection, and we had nice conversation throughout the evening. A very nice (and talented) singer named Gar Cox did a few songs with his guitar, and it was really enjoyable. Then we all moved on to the Dice Bar, and some more people joined in. Mark and I both had a great time talking to new acquaintances about all sorts of things: fashion, art, music, and nonsense. We probably should have gone home after the Dice bar closed, but then Andréa and Jessamyn convinced us to have "once more drink" at a bar down the street. So we went, but I ordered a club soda, and Mark couldn't even drink his Maker's shot. (Note to self: if your partner can't drink his drink, don't drink it for him, thinking "it can't go to waste"!)

We stumbled to our bikes, and realized that it was imperative that we get some food on the way home. We were going to stop in at Burger King, but we were allured by the je ne sais crois of Johnny Rockets, so we went in there instead for some late-night eats. Mostly, I would not recommend it, but the fried mushrooms were tasty!

After we got home, we both felt encouraged that friends in Dublin are only just around the corner. I know it will still take more time to build relationships, but I know that it will happen, because there is sure some fun stuff going on in this town! But it's hard because I don't want to be too pushy with the few people I do know here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

People in Boston think that the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations are a big deal, but I have to say that comparing the footage from the celebrations here in Dublin, it's like comparing a backyard Barbecue to a Gala Ball.

Here's The Slideshow of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston, held, I might add, on March 15th. The caption reads, "The 2009 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston featured bagpipes, Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly, Star Wars storm troopers, gunplay and St. Patty himself." Wow. That's pretty extravagant. I don't know how anyone could top bagpipes and Bill O'Reilly (and here I thought they were one and the same).

Here's A Slideshow of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, and here's a Flickr set of someone attending the parade.

I think the photos say it all. Compare:

(photo courtesy of the Boston Phoenix)
To this:

(photo courtesy of DSB on Flickr)

(photo courtesy of the Irish Independent)

We watched the world premier of Simpsons go to Ireland episode last night. I thought it was very entertaining, especially given all the funny misconceptions Americans have about Ireland that I've recently learned are not true. I had a few good laughs and recommend that my friends back home watch it when it comes on!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Great News! I have replaced my poor, electrocuted sewing machine that I had brought to Ireland from the US and promptly fried. My well-timed birthday meant that I could finally afford a new machine that wouldn't blow up when I plugged it in. And the man in the shop gave me a fantastic deal... nearly 50% off because it was a shop model.

It's a Bernina Activa 145

This machine will last me at least 20 years. I am over the moon. And I have already started sewing! Of course I'll post the results...

Thanks to Dad, Sal, and Mark.
Watching the Saint Patrick's Day Parade alone is kind of depressing, I'll admit it. Mark and I were not planning on going down for it, and then we were, and then I chickened out. And so now I'm watching it on TV and Mark is reading in the other room pretending not to be annoyed at me. Now I'd like to go, but I know that if I do, I won't get a glimpse of anything but the backs of people's heads. The problem is that I don't really like crowds. I'm afraid I would just become frustrated and annoyed. Then again I might be amused and delighted! Who knows? Since I am apparently not going, apparently I will never know.

But at least you get a good view of the pageant on television. There are some wonderfully creative costumes and floats!

Speaking of pageants, Mark and I attended the The Alternative Miss Ireland pageant at The Olympia Theatre. What a fantastic show! We were in the "Upper Circle," which is a third story balcony so steep that it's disorienting when you first get up there. I was sure I wouldn't be able to see anything up there, but when the show started, I could see well enough. Here are some images and audio from the Irish Times of the event, whose proceeds went to charity. A recurring theme of the night (though I'm not certain how intentional it was) was Gay Marriage, which did make the both of us a little teary at bits.

Coming from a place where same-sex couples can marry, it was a little sad in that respect to return to life without such rights. (Not to mention illegal abortion, but that's a topic for another day.) But the feeling of hope on the stage and in the audience permeated the mood completely. And I do believe that it's coming within the next decade. I hope it does! I don't like being a have when there are have-nots, when it costs nothing to give.

Anyhoo... we moved on to PantiBar for a drink. The music was fun, but the place was PACKED. We were a couple of sardines in there. After we got our drinks, I was moving over to find a better place to stand, and I got positively SHOOED by this pushy drag queen. I couldn't be mad though. I mean, she had places to go and be fabulous, and I was holding her up with my little midget self getting in the way!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We began our day by brunching at Juice, a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options (note: I think their website may be slightly outdated) so Mark and I could both eat comfortably. From there we sauntered over to the Cow's Lane Market and had a gander at the stalls. Some interesting stuff, but nothing that blew my socks off. The problem with handmade goods is that to make money off it, you need to charge more, obviously, because it takes more time than a factory item. But for people to want to pay more, it has to be unique and well-made. I didn't feel that all of the vendors had the kind of quality that matched the prices they were asking. There has to be something about the item that makes the customer willing to pay more, it's that simple. My mind got to thinking...I am eager to get my sewing machine next week. But there were some cute things there, for sure!

Boy there sure are a lot of people walking around town in those ridiculous green hats. More than in Boston I'd guess, if you can imagine. It's all so undignified. I suppose I still resent St. Patrick's day for overshadowing my birthday, the much cooler, nerdier, and under-appreciated Pi day. I'm really not much for crowds, and I'm really really not much for drunken crowds, so St. Patrick's Day is definitely not one of my preferred holidays. Now, in case you are wondering, yes, I am in fact of Irish descent: my great-grandfather was from Limerick. But I'm just not all rah-rah about it. I'm also, for the record, not rah-rah about my Italian or French-Canadian, or American heritage either. I just don't fly flags, period. (And no jokes about any "freak flags" from the peanut gallery!)

Anyhoo, from there we headed to St. Stephen's Green, (a park at the top of Grafton Street, one of the big shopping areas, so I guess you could liken it to Boston Common, but much smaller and much more manicured) because I had yet to visit it. It wasn't much to write home about, but I took a couple of photos nevertheless:
A bust of Constance Markievicz:

A gift from the Germans to the Irish people after WWII:

A sculpture evoking the famine:

We decided to head over to the park over at Merrion Square, and there just happened to be a little carnival going on there! It was sort of an odd sight, and not very well attended at all. The Ferris Wheel was actually impressively large, but since it was an extremely windy day, there was no way either of us were going to get on it!

I'm not sure what this ride was, but the picture is worth a thousand words...

Ride Hollywood with all your favorite movie stars!

The park itself is nice for walking or sitting around for a picnic -- it kind of reminds me of the sculpture park in Washington, DC but less open, so the pathways make you feel like you're almost in the woods at some points. If you remember from a couple of months ago, this is the same park where I took the photo of the pyramid with the flame and the soldiers inside. On that day, I was too cold to explore. Yesterday was a fine day for checking out the sculptures and flora...or the both! We had a laugh when we came upon this bust of Michael Collins that someone had stuffed with a daffodil:

Then there was a not-so-great statue of Oscar Wilde. It made him look like a jerk, I thought:

And this sculpture, which is actually quite small but may look large in the photo. The woman looks about four months pregnant, and is about three quarters of the size of my arm:

We headed over to the Docklands, and walked around a bit before it was time to go into the Grand Canal area where we had two tickets to the free show for a performance piece called "Spheres." As we were walking, we came upon this sign in a window from someone being evicted from their house. A true "sign of the times" indeed:

We wandered back up to where the show was happening, and caught the show. It was cute. Of course we enjoyed critiquing it once it was over, as is our way. But visually, you can see they did some interesting stuff with not a lot of technical mumbojumbo:

We popped into a pub whose name escapes me now for a pint. Mark said it was in Dubliners. We enjoyed the place but decided we'd best move on if we were to keep to schedule.

And then finally we walked all the way back up to the edge of St. Stephen's Green and ate at Wagamama, and then headed over to a bar called The Lower Deck to catch a friend's band play.

The bands were all decent, actually, and I was relieved that my friend's band was the best, so I don't have to lie when I give him a compliment. Here's a photo I took of a kid's jacket. He was comically drunk, and then not so comically drunk.

When it was over we bought some snacks, walked for a bit, and then finally decided to spring for a cab home.

All in all, a very fun-filled, pleasant birthday indeed.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Yesterday afternoon the weather was gorgeous (all things being relative) so I hopped on the bus thinking I'd walk around St. Stephen's Green, just cuz. But first I wanted to check out a special at LUSH I'd received an email about. (A night in: products for a facial for two for only 10 euro!) The nice lady slathered all sorts of magical potions on my hands, and I walked out one happy customer. The world around, LUSH has the best employees.

But I was extremely hungry, and when my blood sugar gets low, I get a little spacey. So instead of stopping in somewhere to get any old snack, I sort of wandered around like a zombie, not knowing what to do. And instead of going into St. Stephen's, I thought, "Oh I'll just go over this way and see if there's a place to get a bite to eat, and then head back." But then I kept wandering, and wandering, and wandering. It's like I just had no rational thought anymore. So finally I got to Cornucopia, which, let me tell you, isn't near St. Stephen's Green, and I bought a scone. Which, is ridiculous because I passed about fifteen places where I could have bought a scone. But, I didn't. By then it was dark, so I decided to just keep wandering toward home.

As I walked along the Liffey, I took this rather cheesy photo of the Ha'Penny Bridge, but I liked how it looked:

I conveniently remembered that it was Thursday and the shops were open late, so I stopped in to a couple of stores, and like a magical miracle, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the pair of black flats I've been looking for for well over two years.

Have you ever had an article of clothing that's in your head so clearly, you know exactly what you want, but you can't find it anywhere? For me it was a pair of plain black flats made of nice soft leather with a rounded toe, and an ankle strap. Comfortable but not too sporty. Simple simple simple. You think you've seen them everywhere but you haven't believe me because I've been looking everywhere. Something was always just barely not right. I thought I had found them last year, a pair of Izods, but they were just a little too pointy and shiny, and then when they came, their smallest size was gigantic on my tiny foot.

But there they were in the flesh, staring up at me. Price? Not bad. Size? In stock. Fit? Fabulous. I didn't think twice. I mean, I literally did not own a pair of black flats. Most women have like ten pairs of black flats, don't they? I didn't have one pair because I've been holding out for these. I told the sales woman that I didn't want the box, and she replied that they would be non-returnable without the box. I told her that I was positive I wouldn't be returning them, as I'd been looking for these very shoes for two years. "Well, we have a website," she said, "So when you return home, you can still order shoes from us online."
"Oh," I replied, "I'm not returning home. I live here. This is my home now." And as I said it, I wondered, when exactly do you call a place home?
On Wednesday I went to an Open Interview for a very well-known American retail brand that is opening a new store on Grafton street here in Dublin. I know a couple of people who work for this company, and while it is a somewhat controversial brand for several reasons (its overtly sexual and exploitative advertising, the rumors about its owner being a sexist pig, among other rumors and rumblings), it's also a generally acknowledged fact that the production methods of the garments are more humane than most, and the quality of the goods is quite high. Also, I happen to like their clothes. So, as I was in contact with an acquaintance in the corporate office who told me that they were holding quickie interviews at a Hotel in Temple Bar (that's a neighborhood in the City Centre for those unaware) from 10:00 to 15:00 on Wednesday. She told me that they look at personal style, so be creative with my ensemble. So I figured why not. I did a little research on where their branding is going these days by perusing their website, and assembled an outfit that I thought went with their image, but without buying anything new! Most importantly, I wanted to be comfortable, so that meant no heels, sexy, but yet also slightly androgynous. And, of course, slightly American looking, but not over the top. I knew from their past several years of advertising that I shouldn't wear a lot of makeup either. They like a natural look. Which is convenient because I don't generally wear much makeup. Here's what I cobbled together (imagine tight jeans and grey suede slouchy cowboy boots, not pictured), shot just as I was running out of the door:

I just can't get myself to smile when I take a photo of myself. But anyways, I showed up and patted myself on the back when I saw that one of the women interviewing the applicants was wearing an outfit very similar to my own, except instead of a sweater, she was wearing a blazer, and instead of boots she was wearing booties.

The interview was literally five minutes long. I have no idea if what I said came close to what they wanted to hear, but I did my best. One thing I brought up as something I would bring to the position was my experience with American-style Customer Service. I sort of hesitated with a laugh, and she laughed too (she wasn't American, but she wasn't Irish, but I couldn't decipher her accent), and we commiserated how the customer service in Ireland is absolutely abysmal. And I wasn't lying when I said I don't think it's how things should be. We talked about my feelings on the company -- it seemed important to them that the applicants know about the company and the brand, and I think I demonstrated that I was quite familiar. And then, at the end, the nice woman who interviewed me took my photo. (yes, I smiled. kind of.) They had interviewed over 150 applicants that day, and I was among the last group (I planned it that way so I'd be fresh in their minds). But, you know, really I think it all comes down to personality, doesn't it? Winners get phone calls; losers get emails. So far, I haven't received either, so they're probably still sifting through their 150 CVs.

How sad is it though that I was happy to go on a job interview because it got me out of the house? After it was over, I was like, "Well that was fun!" Then I walked around and did some shopping and drooled over sewing machines. :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I just discovered that my post about text messaging has been mentioned on a website called Silicon Republic in their Blog Digest, which then also made it to The Independent's web site. And they mentioned my blog favorably! What a pleasant surprise!

They also feature other Americans blogging about living in Ireland, particularly one that describes five American women who get together to commiserate. The article points out, "More importantly, they’re aware of American stereotypes (loud, brash, etc). Do we still make all Americans feel this way?" I know that technically this was a rhetorical question, but in my mind I'd like to pretend that it wasn't. Thank you for asking!

It is so hard to answer this question. Because on one hand, I can't say that anyone has necessarily *done* anything to make me feel that way since I've arrived. However, I have been in situations where it has definitely crossed my mind that people have thought I was the "loud, brash" American. I should say here, for the record, that I have said since before I came over that I would not soften my accent. I do not want to be one of those people who travel to a different part of the world and then suddenly change the way they have spoken their entire lives. My sister moved to Alabama from New England and I swear she had a southern accent when she got off the plane, and I'm sorry sis, I love you but I always thought it was weird and wrong sounding. So when I open my mouth, it's my advertisement that I'm American (unless I happen to come across that rare open-minded individual who might consider me a Canadian). And when that happens, and I mean every time, I do so with a bit of apprehension.

If you're wondering why, here's an example. I was locking up my bike one day, and this man came up to me. "That's a nice bike!" he said, "Is it a single speed?" I said that it was, and he commented on how fast it must be, and asked me if it was very expensive. I said that it was surprisingly cheap, as I had bought it in the States and taken it over on the plane with me. "Oh, so you're American," he said. Then he asked me where from. I said Boston. He said where in Boston, I rattled off about six neighborhoods. Then he asked, "Does America still treat their Vietnam Vets like scum?"

At some point, I think every American in Europe is expected to be a spokesman for the country. And it feels like a lot of pressure, even if your audience is only one, because that one person could walk away thinking you and the US are a bunch of morons, or could walk away with a new perspective and understanding, depending on the eloquence of your response. (But as it happens, I don't happen to agree with the way the US treats its Veterans, but I also, admittedly, don't know much about it. All I do know is that I have two uncles who stayed on in service after the war, and they were treated very very well. So I told the man that my unfortunate estimation was that if you stayed on, you got a good pension and were treated well, but if you left the service after Vietnam, then you probably got the short end of the stick. Then he said something about the US being run by big business, and I shrugged a LOT because I in my head I started to have a lot to say, but was in no mood for debate, so I said nothing, and he walked away, having merely confirmed his ideas about America.)

America is tyrannical in so many ways, and it's disgusting what Bush has done to alienate the International community in eight years. But there are many "American values" that I used to laugh at that I sure would like to see around the streets of Dublin. More smiling, for one. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, I play a little game. I smile at everyone I walk past to see who will smile back. Nine times out of ten, the other person will not even make eye contact with me, let alone greet me with a smile. People said that Dubliners were friendly, but what they meant were people drunk in the pubs. I'm looking for friendly folks in daylight hours, if it isn't too much to ask.

Yesterday I went into the bike shop to get some fenders for my bike. The sales guy was actually trying to talk me out of getting nice ones. "This is Dublin," he said, "They're either going to get stolen, or vandalized. I don't know if you've noticed, but people will mess with your bike just because they can." Mark's been saying this since I got here, and of course I believed him, but it was odd to hear it from another source. I understand theft. But vandalism? Messing with my wheels, just for fun? And it's so widespread, that it's a well-known fact. I wonder, which country is more tyrannical when it comes to the individual?

But back to the question at hand: I think it's a hang-up that everyone needs to get over. You can't label the citizens of a country with one attribute, no matter how big or how small that country is. We've got soft-spoken people and brash people in scores. Just like every other place. The difference is that when Americans act loudly, or assertively, it seems to represent something. As if no one from any other part of the world is assertive, or brash, or too loud. It's as if we feel we have to constantly apologize for where we come from, or the sins of our country. And how much each individual takes this guilt on is a very personal decision.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

So my post about the violence in Northern Ireland has been referenced on an Irish political messageboard in this thread . No need to click on the link though, here's what it says:

This is what an American in Ireland has blogged about the attack:

Read Me Sometimes, Think of Me Often.

"So many of you may have heard that there was some violence up in Northern Ireland from the IRA -- troubles that were supposed to be over.

Irish and UK media are paying tribute to the men killed, but I find it interesting that there is practically no mention of the others injured in the accident. And I wonder if it isn't because two of them were Polish immigrants. I wonder, if they weren't UK nationals if they wouldn't be all over the news, being interviewed, the country following their health and progress, everyone pouring with sympathy at these victims. But instead, there's just this really eerie silence as the injured are mentioned in passing."

Interesting that she makes no distinction between the IRA and the Real IRA

Well, actually it *is* interesting! And you learn something new every day. Americans have a reputation for being ignorant. And in a lot of ways we do a great job of living up to that reputation. But I think that people in other countries forget that we have a hard enough time keeping track of the issues in our own country and continent, let alone the rest of the world. And to give you perspective on that, the size of the entire island of Ireland, north and south, is about as big as Indiana, one of America's smaller states, of which there are fifty. So that's about 32,599 square miles versus about 3,537,438 square miles, or nearly 110 times bigger. You may be shocked and outraged that an American living in Ireland for two and a half months doesn't know what the "real" IRA is, but the answer is simple: it didn't make my radar until you pointed it out! Hey - at least I'm not like a whole slew of Americans who think that Southern Ireland is part of the UK. Europeans get all miffed if you don't know who their Presidents are, saying, "Well, we know who your President is!" But our country is so large that it's easy! All they have to know is ONE dude! We have the President, then the Governors of all the States, then the Senators and the Cabinet, not to mention the Supreme Court Judges... I know -- excuses, excuses.

But what is actually, truly interesting is that, now that you mention it I did hear that distinction on the news, and I had no idea what it meant! But when I heard it I sort of shrugged it off because I didn't understand it. Well, now I have been compelled to do some research, and what I found is really bizarre (to me anyways). I apologize for sounding so ignorant, but at least I'm not going to pretend to know something I don't. Instead I'm going to share the process of discovery.

First off, there's more than one IRA. But even the BBC is still asking "Who are the real IRA?" But to find the answer, I consulted an older article from 2001 According to the article, "The group was born out of a split in the mainstream Provisional IRA in October 1997, when the IRA's so-called quartermaster-general resigned over Sinn Fein's direction in the peace process. Security forces estimate that the Real IRA's membership is between 100 and 200."

This New York Times Article shed a lot of light on the situation for me.

So, if the "Real IRA" split off from "the Continuity IRA," then who is the Continuity IRA? Well, apparently, they're the ones responsible for killing the officer in Banbridge two days after the Real IRA killed the two British soldiers.

However, the Continuity IRA was a split from "the Provisional IRA" in 1986. Then who is the Provisional IRA, you ask??? Well, if you want a history with timeline and the like from the BBC, there you go.

But, get this: The Provisional IRA split from "The Official IRA" in 1969. Who are the Official IRA, you want to know? Well, they and the Provisional IRA came from....the IRA. Then there's the Irish National Liberation Army, or the INLA, and they're armed too. That's a whole other can of worms. But this is the general idea, near as I can tell, of the different groups.

So what's scary is the pissing match that may be taking place. I don't understand it, but now begins the process of at least attempting to.

Man. That's all I got for now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So on Sunday it was a bit chilly and windy, but that didn't stop us from heading out in the afternoon to see Edna O'Brien being interviewed by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne at the Dublin Book Festival. Mark really enjoyed Éilís Ní Dhuibhne's book the Dancers Dancing, and I think he was hoping it would be more of a conversation between the two writers than an interview. It was a free event, but as the room was extremely small, you had to sign up in advance. As our luck would have it, Mark got us in, and though I've never read either author, I was pleased to go.

The City Hall building's interior looked as you'd expect it to: ornate, with mosaics and statues, and chandeliers, etc. I took a couple of discrete photos:

We mulled around, looking at different publishers' displays, and then found the line for the Edna O'Brien event. There were about ten people in front of us, waiting at the foot of the stairs for the previous event going on in the room to finish up. No rush. We joined the line, shoulder to shoulder, and then some people got in behind us, and some behind them, etc. Not a huge crowd by any stretch, as the capacity of the room was only about 50 or so.

But then this group of three people suddenly wedged themselves into where we were standing, and instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, I was crowded into the wall, smooshed over to the side and kind of behind Mark. We couldn't talk comfortably, and we're like, "What just happened?" We looked over and the monster edging us over was a little woman not much taller than me. Mark initially went with his usual tactic, putting his messenger bag in her face, but that didn't help me and my intimate relationship with the wall, so I insisted that we switch places. I then stood next to the woman, so close that if she weren't so busy talking her two companions' ears off, I could have whispered sweet nothings in her ear.

So we did the only thing we could do, at that point. We held a conversation about how annoyed we were, right there. But being the "intellectuals" (read pseudo-intellectuals, if you must) that we are, we of course had to relate it to power dynamics, and throw a little post-colonial theory in there for good measure. At the start, we had stood there, in our spots, our feet planted on the floor, happy as clams. The woman edged us in, sure. But she could not have done so if we had not lost our footing at least somewhat willingly. Now, as it happens we were quite annoyed, but I think part of our annoyance, or at least I'll speak for myself here, was with ourselves, for giving up our comfort, our position. But still, one might say, to make a fuss in such a fancy building, that would be so undignified -- what's the harm of moving over for your neighbor?

Something about the incident left me feeling strangely victimised and angry. As we stood there, I hurled insults into the woman's ears, quietly, but well loud enough for her to hear them. But she didn't. She no more heard them than she was aware of the fact she had invaded our little comfortable zone of shoulder-to-shoulder happiness.

But the line started to move, and we stepped up, and reclaimed our place in line, ahead of the fancy cutting foreign lady and her Irish hangers on. And as we climbed the stairs we looked down to see that instead of giving her name to gain admittance to the event, she was yammering about how she wanted to be added to a stand-by list. "She wasn't even on the list!" I exclaimed.

As we entered the room, we considered ourselves lucky because the venue was truly intimate. It was filling quickly, and we figured our little nudgers wouldn't make it. We found a nice seat in the second row and watched the people entering. One older gentleman caught our eye because he looked like he must be a famous writer himself! We puzzled over who he might be, but came up with nothing. So, we imagined that he was someone fantastic. Then of course, in they entered: our line nudgers. The only remaining seats were staggered singles around the room. An unassuming man in glasses, a navy blue crew neck sweater, and a backpack, was going for an empty chair in front of us when guess who came up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said that she had spotted the seat first (though he clearly had, and the proof was that he was about to sit in it when she stopped him). He paused, but being obviously not one for conflict, and a gentleman. But then we watched him floundering around the room in search of a free chair. As it happened, the only seat available was next to our "famous" old man. And then Mark and I watched with glee as the two of them struck up a conversation, and we imagined that in the end, he was much happier in the second seat.

So, what's with all this fuss about queues? Well, because people can really get pissed off over them. And in them, so much can be represented. The woman who cut our line was clearly wealthy, and while I know that "wealthy" obviously does not equal "rude," I think that she demonstrated a great deal of sophistication in sizing up our insignificance, and knew without being conscious of her own knowledge that she could take our space from us with our consent. All she consciously thought about was the fact that she wasn't on the list and she needed to get on the stand-by list as soon as possible. We were, as they say, the weakest link. And it really doesn't feel good to be the weakest link.

On Saturday, the man in the asian shop felt that he was trying to be made the weakest link. Only he refused to give up his space. He fought, and viciously! But he also made a fool of himself. And therein lies the rub.

Regarding the interview itself: Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is reputed to be a very talented writer, but she was not a talented interviewer. It's lucky for her that Edna O'Brien happens to be a compelling speaker, and the entire room hung on her every word (they really did - the microphone was horrible). She looks fantastic for her age (78), and something about her face and her mannerisms reminded me strikingly of my mother (an older version, of course). As a writer, I was inspired to hear what she had to say about writing and her process, and how she felt about the reception of her writing. I enjoyed it very much, and it fired me up to keep working on my novel.
So on Saturday morning Mark and I went to "The Hill" on North Cumberland Street, this small block where vendors come out and put piles of junk out for sale. There are large piles of clothes, tables of knick-knacks, TVs, boxes of tools, junk, children's toys, a guy who sells mostly shoes, some furniture, a couple of bikes, this, that, and the other thing. It's like a flea market, only junkier. Mark's mom has been going there since he was a little kid, and I've been hearing about it for over a year, so being a bargain hunter I was naturally curious about it.

I rifled through the piles of clothes, hoping to find something made of interesting fabric -- even if it wasn't something I could wear as-is, I might turn it into something wearable. But I didn't come on to anything magical, so I let it be. But I enjoyed poking around at all the stuff!

Somewhat pressed for time because I was due at Seomra Spraoi at noon, Mark and I parted ways, and I thought I'd pop into a couple of the Asian shops that are right there at the end of North Cumberland Street and pick up some Sweet Rice Flour for a recipe that I've been wanting to try.

At the second shop, I decided to check out, and as I approached the counter from the left side, there was no one around but one woman who was checking out. She had a slew of items, and it was a long transaction, and I though to myself that it was taking a comically long time -- as she paid by credit card, even the paper seemed to come out of the machine one. line. at. a. time. as. slowly. as. possible. Then just as the transaction was finished, and she was lifting her bags off the counter, I noticed this man to the left of me edging in with a bag of little brown pods. He was a thin, fair-skinned Irish man, about 42 years of age, medium height, with bad posture.

Now, admittedly, the way people "queue up" here is different than in America, and I'm still getting used to it. People tend to line up to the side rather than one behind the other. But when I approached the counter, I walked up from the left, so I know that he wasn't there. But he had just the one item, and I wasn't terribly concerned, just a little... surprised at his gall. So I said, "That's nice," as he aggressively put his item on the counter, clearly knowing he was cutting me off.
"I was here first!" he very nearly shouted at me, "And you would know that if you weren't so BLIND!" He turned around to face me and flashed this look of pure hatred. I was so surprised at the venom in his reaction that I simply started laughing. Then the man behind him spoke up and said, "Actually sir, she was ahead of you. She was there when you came up."
"She was not!" The man yelled. "I have been waiting here for ages! And she would have seen that if she wasn't such a stupid, STUPID woman!" By this time his transaction was over, and he was beside himself with anger, but I was still laughing and hadn't said one word since my initial "That's nice." So I said, "Have a nice day!"
"You don't have a nice day!" he yelled. "You have a very BAD day!" With this he walked up to me and put his face very close to mine, virtually poking me with his eyes. I noticed that in his fury he'd dropped some change, so I thought I would have a little more fun and really kill him with kindness.
"You dropped some money there," I informed him, pointing to the floor.
"You and the devil can keep it!" he shouted, and stormed out of the shop, leaving guy behind the counter, the other guy in line, and me looking at each other in total bewilderment. The odd thing of it is - I only had two small items, and I was paying cash. My transaction took all of thirty seconds.

But Mark had a theory that it was not the man's perception that he was ahead of me in line that infuriated me so much, but rather the fact that I didn't follow the "rules" of queuing up properly. I was a "blind" and "stupid" woman for not knowing that the line starts off to the side, to the left, and not directly behind the person at the counter. My ill-placed personal space created an inexcusable faux-pas to which anger and dismay was the only answer (at least, in this man's mind).

I was a little scared to go about the business of the rest of my day, feeling like I'd just had a hex put on me, and considering I was volunteering at Seomra Spraoi and then going to my in-law's house, a lot could have gone wrong. But as it happened, I had a fine day. I did get soaked on my bike, but that only made getting home with a bottle of cognac all the sweeter.

Monday, March 9, 2009

So many of you may have heard that there was some violence up in Northern Ireland from the IRA -- troubles that were supposed to be over.

Irish and UK media are paying tribute to the men killed, but I find it interesting that there is practically no mention of the others injured in the accident. And I wonder if it isn't because two of them were Polish immigrants. I wonder, if they weren't UK nationals if they wouldn't be all over the news, being interviewed, the country following their health and progress, everyone pouring with sympathy at these victims. But instead, there's just this really eerie silence as the injured are mentioned in passing.
On Friday, Mark and I agreed to stay in (well, sort of - we wanted to see the author Pat McCabe spin records, but we didn't realize it was happening so early and we missed it). I looked forward to a relaxing night of sloth.

We live in a part of town called Drumcondra on the upper third of a long street called Richmond Road. If you head up one end of our street, toward Drumcondra Road, where our little grocery store is, a few pubs, and where we catch the bus to town, it's quite nice. But if you head in the other direction, it gets a little shady -- not so much during the day, but later at night. If you're on the bike, you zip through without a care, but walking, I just wouldn't recommend it. For our night in, we decided to check out a liquor store at the shady end of the street to see if they had a better beer selection than Tesco (the supermarket) and the not-so-great Off-License store (aka Liquor Store) nearer to our place. It was still early, before nine I think. We walked there, no problem, went in, made our selection quite happily (they did have a better selection as we suspected!) and then on our way out, there was this group of 4 or 5 teenage boys standing just outside the door. One of them sort of stood almost as if he was going to get in Mark's way and he said, "YAW RYE?" in that lovely Irish way of not enunciating words. I have no idea what would possess any kid, especially a scrappy one about five foot nine in height, to mess with Mark, who towered over him at six foot four. But my theory is that maybe they heard us talking on the way in and thought we were some dumb Americans. Mark replied in as Dublin an accent as he could muster as one of the boys made a farting noise.

There's just really nothing worse than a gang of teenage boys. But you can't give an inch. So Mark and I walked along and instinctively gave a bounce to our walk, the way gorillas do in the wild when they feel intimidated. Having taken self-defense classes, and having been in a position of defending myself against assaults, I know that what they say about the "fight or flight" syndrome really is true. You've got to either run or fight. Anyways, they were just a bunch of stupid kids, the likes of which I have passed tens of times before, but it was annoying to be so blatantly sized up in that way and then have to ready myself in my mind to stick my fingers in someone's eye sockets if need be. Gee. I hope I'm not freaking anyone out. It's safe here, I swear! Just typical life in any city! But I'm writing this because it's leading up to a theme of personal space that you'll see over my next two posts...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Well, I have been making a more concerted effort to meet people and get off my chair, with satisfactory results! Though I should note that I don't post absolutely everything I do in this here blog -- I do go to events and pubs and such that I haven't posted about, lest y'all think that during all other times than those posted, I'm just sitting around my house. And there's actually a few things I *meant* to post about that I just didn't get to, like the Dublin Flea Market, but maybe I will do it on a day when I feel like catching up!

Anyhoo - I was feeling rather isolated early this week, especially reading a mass of gleeful Facebook status updates from friends back home about their snow days and getting to stay home from work and school for a nice surprise day off. If I were there, I'd be likely teaching and have a snow day myself, and be satisfyingly rolling over and going back to sleep with the sounds of snow shoveling and plowing in the distance... So I was feeling a bit like jeez I need to figure out how to find some people to hang out with, and then I saw my old friend, Heather, on gchat, fresh from victorious news of her snow day. We got to chatting, and then we took it over to Skype. She is a dear, dear friend and lived in Norther Ireland for a few years, and knows a few people in the area. I told her about what I've been doing, and it felt so nice to talk to someone who has been through this and who understands. She insisted that I email her friend, (we'll call her J), who owns an art gallery here in Dublin. I told her I would (even thought I told I would before I moved and didn't).

So when I hung up with Heather, I did actually send off and email to J. And to my surprise, she sent a very warm and hospitable email back! So we agreed to meet at an art opening the next day. As it happened the art opening was Thursday, but we met for drinks with her gallery co-owner, A. They were the nicest women! The conversation flowed freely, and I just got the nicest feeling from both of them instantly. Like, you know that feeling when you meet someone and you just have no reservations whether they are a good person? That kind of thing. They were very helpful to me, asking questions about how I was getting on, what I'd been doing since I got here, what my plans where, that kind of thing. Before we were finished our first drink, they already had plans for people to introduce me to, and places I should check out, and all kinds of things. I was really stoked, and I don't mean that in a surfer way; if I were a fire, I would have been literally stoked, but as I was a human being, I was figuratively stoked.

Anyways, the next night I did manage to get out and meet them again for an art opening at NCAD for the artist Phil Collins however I stupidly, stupidly left the house with 1. only 12 euro, thinking, "Oh it's just an art opening. I'll go to the opening and go home. Twelve euro should be enough, even if we go get a drink afterwards." Hello! This is Ireland. There is no ONE drink afterwards. 2. No phone. I realized I had left my phone at home when I was nearly to the bus stop and I was already sort of late. I figured I would just go and try my luck and hope for the best. Back home I felt *completely naked* without my phone, but as I have no friends here and no one that really calls me, I don't even know where my mobile is half the time. 3. Without my Dublin city map! Oh, I can wing it, I thought, until I remembered that NCAD wasn't where I thought it was. I got off the bus when I remembered foggily that that's what we'd done when I went there with Mark. Then I sort of just walked, using vague recollection as my guide. At certain points I was sure I was walking nowhere, but then the street would turn busy again and I would remember where I was. So, I managed to find my way to NCAD without a map after all. But when I got to the opening, there was a mass of people and I feared I wouldn't find J and A. Here's where my phone would have come in handy. Alas, not an option, so I checked out the exhibit for about ten minutes or so. Then I milled around outside again and finally spotted A.

The two of them were sort of taking turns entertaining this English man by the name of Chris Smith, who, as I have just researched, is the editor of the Journal of Visual Art Practice. He's an artist and Principal Lecturer at London Metropolitan University. And also, kind of fascinated with watching other people hearing himself talk to them. Yes, he had interesting things to say. Yes, he is an intelligent man. Yes, sure. Ok, you proved your point Mr. Smith that you can talk to an audience. Isn't that what your whole career has been about? After listening to him talk both J's and A's ears off, one after the other, and then over again, I really did want to ask him, don't you ever want to shut up sometimes and ask other people about themselves? Just because you are 25 years older doesn't mean a person of 30 or 35 might not have something interesting to say to you. And, if you shut your flap for a minute, you might hear something inspiring. And I felt it was a bit of a complinsult for him to say to A that if he were X years younger, he'd whatever whatever... It really just underscored how little value he seemed to place on her as an actual person. Or maybe I'm looking at it as the glass half empty, I don't know. The thing is that, anyone with half a brain who'd talk with A for five minutes knows she's a fantastic person. So to say something like that I just thought was rather gauche. And patronizing. And what's more patriarchal. Anyways, I was happy when A asked if I wanted to go to a place called The Sugar Club for re-launching of an Irish art magazine called Circa. I said yes, though I started to feel anxious about my meager 12 euro in my wallet. I hoped I could get by with putting a few euro toward the cab and then buying myself one drink. But then in the cab A mentioned that there might be a cover charge! Shoooot! So I thought ok, if I can get to an ATM, maybe my bank account has 20 euro that I can withdraw so that I can pay the cover charge and be ok. As luck would have it, there was a machine across the street! But as I pulled out my card, I realized with much embarrassment and dismay that I had no recollection of my PIN, as I had only used the card once, more than a month ago. I explained this to my companion, who had already proclaimed that she would float me whatever I was short, but having only known her 24 hours (and even if I hadn't, it's really not my way), I really didn't want to have to rely on her offer. But I didn't seem to have much choice unless I decided to just call it a night and go home.

So we went in, and sure enough there was a ten euro cover! A paid for us both, and when we sat down, I just handed over my 12 euro to her. I drank two glasses of wine at her insistence, and we had a very easy conversation. We agreed that the event could have used some better PR, for one, to generate more excitement about the relaunching of the magazine. At some point she asked me to follow her outside so she could bum a cigarette from someone, and then we ran into a friend of hers, who was very charming indeed. In fact, so were J and A's friends at the art opening. A has lived in New York, France, and Switzerland, and she has a very keen understanding for how to carry on a proper conversation, and it's just been a long, long time since I had a genuine conversation with someone who wasn't Mark. I tried to remember the time, but with no phone (ie my only watch), as it happened, I asked A what time it was and it was just about 11:30! I needed to get out of there. She generously offered to loan me money for a taxi home, but I just would have sooner died. Seriously, I would have preferred to walk the entire way home than borrow money from so new an acquaintance. So I dashed into the bathroom quickly, and then ran outside like Cinderella at a ten seconds to midnight.

But the problem was that I didn't *actually* know where I was! I knew I was near St. Stephen's Green but that didn't really mean very much to me, to be honest. I was three glasses of wine in, and dinner was a distant, distant memory. So I walked quickly down the street in search of the nearest bus stop, in the hopes that there might be one last bus that would come along and take me to the city center, and from there I could walk home. It would be a pain, but doable. However there was no bus stop, and then I was just sort of walking, ahead, wondering where on earth I was and where on earth I was headed. Then I reached a spot where the street was clearly not going to go anywhere, so I swung a right in the hopes that it might take me to civilization. I had the feeling of someone who has been blindfolded, spun around a few times, and un-blindfolded. I wondered idly which canal I happened to be walking alongside. My feet pattered on the sidewalk, breaking the quiet of the night. I felt as if I were the only person awake on earth. The water of the canal reflected blackness with spots of light from the streetlamps above. Dead reeds leaned in the water as if they, too, were trying to catch a bit of sleep. That's when I realized that if someone did happen to come along and give me a good thwack upside the head and a shove, I would probably be like those "cold case files" you see on television of unsolved murder mysteries that baffle police for decades. Yes, it would be the perfect crime, I thought, as I looked around.

Still, I wasn't really scared in the least. It did seem like a decent neighborhood. In fact, I pulled out my camera and shot a couple of photos. First of the canal behind me:

Then, of a spooky looking tree, fiery red under a glowing streetlamp. It looked like a bloody nerve ending:

But I was getting concerned that I didn't know where I was, or where I was headed, and when I reached a cross street, I didn't know which way would bring me in the direction of the city center. My common sense told me that a woman alone at night should not be asking directions in any sparsely populated part of town because it signals vulnerability. I needed to either keep on like I knew where I was headed, or else think of another plan of action.

So I went with plan B. By then it was nearly midnight, and I felt sure that Mark would be at home and have enough cash there to cover the cost of a cab. If he wasn't home, I could use my phone to call him and take it from there or else who knows, pay the cabbie in our spare change! I quickly hailed a cab, and funnily enough he headed in the exact opposite direction that I was going; I was completely upside down and backwards! On the way home I made jovial conversation with the driver, with the expectation that I would have to ask for his patience once we arrived at my place. He gladly waited while I went up to grab some cash, which thankfully Mark was able to give me. I ran down, paid for the taxi, and ran back upstairs, so glad to be home!

So my lack of planning and thoughtlessness got me into a bit of a fix, but you live and learn -- all's well that ends well, etc etc.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hello to my reader from the US Department of State! :D But also to all my readers, from all over the world. I want to encourage people reading to send any messages and comments along. I can be reached at changela@gmail.com. Visitors have come from Singapore, Berlin, Vancouver, Orlando, New York, London, and lots of other cities worldwide. I'm very excited to share my little story with the world!
I'm still trying to get used to the differences in how people use texting in Ireland. Now, my friends and I back home texted each other a fair amount, don't get me wrong. But there seems to be a subtle difference in how. For instance, I had been in correspondence with someone through myspace before Mark and I got to Ireland. When Mark arrived, they hung out a couple of times. Right before I came, I messaged him and said that I was arriving soon and we should hang out. And he said that I should text him when I got here. That sounds simple enough. But I couldn't think of what to text! Like, uhhh, "Hi. I'm here." I guess it's stupid to hem and haw over. I could have just said, "In Dublin. Let's get a pint!" But I just thought it over so much that I put it off and never sent the guy a text for fear of texting something lame. Then of course I sent him a myspace message a couple of days ago, like errr... sorry I never texted you. So in the end I looked even more ridiculous than if I had just texted him and it wasn't quite the right thing.

A couple of times I've made plans with people for a time and place and they've said to text them in addition to meeting them. Like, let's meet, but first, let's check in with a text. And on those occasions I have been truly baffled at what to say. So I've just texted in with my location and ETA. I have no idea if this is correct, but I'm feeling my way.

I think that texting may be cheaper than phoning? So that may be why people don't just phone each other up. But you often see people texting away, much more so than back home, where it is regular indeed. So you can imagine! Since I can barely figure out my phone, I don't know if I'll ever fully acclimate to this way of life ;)

Monday, March 2, 2009

And now for the weather...

It's getting warmer here! Just enough so that going out is more enjoyable. But even more importantly, it's raining less, and that makes all the difference. It still rains almost every day, but the rain is lighter, and it's for shorter periods, and like now, it's a sun shower, so you don't feel this hum drum dark day ugh it's raining again feeling. But I'm still thankful that I made the extra effort to buy three (yes, three) different types of waterproof jackets before I came. And in fact, I wish I had a fourth. First, there was the winter parka for freezing weather. When I got here it was quite cold and we even had a bit of snow, so I was happy I had my most loved and favorite/cherished/maybe too revered for a winter jacket Orage parka. Then now that it's too warm for that, I have a breathable waterproof jacket I picked up from REI that is just a bit thicker than a windbreaker. It's great for layering. The hood comes off in such a way that you can't even tell it had a hood. It's lovely. Then I got an ultra light, packable windbreaker style hooded rain jacket, also from REI, that I can keep in my bag during the summer. I think these should cover all of my bases except for dressier days. I did realize that when I'm wearing a dress, none of my waterproof jacket options look very nice. But you can't have everything can you?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I made another journey up Fairview way, but all the way up to Clontarf. We continued past St. Anne's park, on to Dollymount aka Bull Island, where there's a little beach. Halfway through the way back the wind kicked up it started to rain, but all in all it was a lovely excursion! And if you were to head out and bike non-stop, it would probably only take thirty minutes to get out there. I really want to check out St. Anne's park. From what I could see, it looks gorgeous. And as usual, here are some shots from my outing:

The now defunct Clontarf Baths:

A place for shelter along the way:


The view from the beach:

Some rocks:
Yesterday I wanted to get out, but Mark needed to read for school, so I hatched a plan for us to go to the Botanic Gardens, where we could both accomplish our respective tasks. It took a little while to find a good indoor reading spot, because it was just a hair too chilly to be sitting still outdoors for any length of time, but once we found it, being inside the greenhouse with a book was a very pleasant way to spend an hour. Also, Mark was extremely annoyed by the squirrels that kept climbing up on our laps in search of food. I thought it was kind of funny but he was *not* amused. Once we found sanctuary from the scary beasts, it was much better. Ha ha. But since the Botanic Gardens are only about a mile from our house, I think it might be a frequent hangout for us from now on. Here are some photos (sorry if some of them are a little boring):

I took this photo of my bike locked to the "Car Park" sign because I was amused by its irony. I was not amused, however, upon returning to my bike to find that someone had stolen the front light that was taped to my helmet. Especially since the light mount is literally in the mail to me from my former roommate. Without the mount, the only thing a person can do with it is a)tape it to a bike or helmet (and get it stolen, apparently) or b)use it as a flashlight. so uh...enjoy your 35 dollar flashlight mr. or ms. thief. I now have to buy a new light with money I do not have, which is annoying. But that's what I get for trusting mankind, right? Anyways, here's the photo:

A Greenhouse, locked up and in disrepair:


A mysterious cage in a pond:

Scavenging beast:

Self-portrait. I didn't mean to look so serious but the wind was in my face:

The camera lens became foggy from coming inside. The effect was cool I thought:

Mark's reading nook:

Warning signs!!!!:

A pretty flower:

Finally, a collage I made from photos I took of a big tree: